Romeo And Juliet / Little Shop Of Horrors / Drunk Enough To Say I Love You?
Various venues
November / December, 2006

[...] I was rather less charmed by the Korean Romeo And Juliet than many. All the wedding-bed comedy and the closing scenes of civil war… well, yes, interesting ideas in general, but if you want to portray matters quite so antithetical to the primary fabric of the play, well, why not choose a different play instead of stretching this one so far to make it fit that it never twangs back into shape?

Little Shop Of Horrors is by and large a delight, regardless of one’s feelings about the current availability of musicals (I think this is a non-issue anyway, a simple batch of coincidences in scheduling rather than a sign of any underlying tendency in London programming as a whole), and also in my case despite certain reservations.  To my shame, it was only a while into his career that I came to appreciate the strengths of Paul Keating as a stage-musical performer (probably much the same way many Australians felt about his namesake as a political performer).  For me, he just has one of those faces that always look rather truculent, which can hamper certain characterisations, such as that of the downtrodden Seymour here.  But his acting and musical skills (and a wonderfully naff wardrobe) largely overcome this factor; if he is outshone by Sheridan Smith as Audrey, well, there’s no shame in that –  so is much of the night sky.  It was my companion who pointed out that, delightful as Jasper Britton’s shtick is, he doesn’t really differentiate between his various cameo roles; maybe that’s part of the joke, but if so, we didn’t get it.  And the pop pedant in me was disappointed that one of the girls in the chorus didn’t hit the right rhythm on the spoken line “He’s a dentist and he’ll never ever be any good”: it’s a reference to the Phil Spector biggie "He’s A Rebel" – the clue being that the character who says it is called Crystal!  Duh!  Hey, if a knowing pop-culture reference is worth making, it’s worth making properly…


One of my biggest letdowns of the fortnight, though, was the relative restraint of Quentin Letts’ review of Drunk Enough To Say I Love You?.  Surely, I thought, this play embodied everything he and his imagined readership loathe, both theatrically and politically.  Alas, he opted for the disdainful chortle rather than the full broadside.  Perhaps he’d expended too much excoriation the previous evening on Dennis Kelly’s (altogether better) Love And Money.  Interesting, though, that in neither case did he appear to notice that the play had a plot, or else he didn’t think that plot worth reporting… which has some interesting implications for what the job of theatre reviewing is considered to involve.  For myself, my inclination is to defend Caryl Churchill’s play a little more, but I can’t in all conscience find grounds to do so.  Particularly not when she begins to mangle language: most critics have noted that virtually every sentence in the play is incompletely uttered, which isn’t a problem, but no-one comments on the fact that, when she can’t find a way of leaving a line unfinished, Churchill resorts to extremely contrived ways of not starting it properly instead.

Connoisseurs of hatchet jobs on reviewers may care to read the article in the Independent hosted on that paper’s web site at  It strikes me as a fairly transparent piece of work: praise your own paper’s incumbents and alumni, add a bit of cursory research (consisting mainly of leafing through reviews of Behind The Iron Mask and A Right Royal Farce), skip blithely past a howler or two of your own (what on earth has Mark Ravenhill got to do with Thérèse Raquin, as is claimed in the misattribution of a quotation from Alastair Macaulay?), and try to sound more daringly bitchy than you actually have the courage to be.  Oh, no, hang on, those are my “Notes To Self”...

Written for Theatre Record.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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